Clarence Jones, former legal counsel and speech writer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sent a letter to California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom in which he expressed great concern for the new Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) that will potentially be taught in California schools.
“I write this letter to you with great dismay, and great concern for the perversion of history that is being perpetrated by the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). If this model curriculum is approved, it will inflict great harm of millions of students in our state.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, California is required to create an ethnic studies "model curriculum" by March 31, 2021, for use as a guide by K-12 schools and districts that wish to offer to such a course.
Jones, who currently serves as founding Director of the Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco, voiced that these changes in the curriculum are "morally unacceptable and renders the entire curriculum suspect."
"It is a fact that the Black Freedom Movement of the 1950s and 1960s under Dr. King’s leadership transformed our country, overthrowing a history of Jim Crow segregation and white supremacist terror throughout the confederate states." He added, "This fact, which I had thought was well known to all educated persons, has been removed from the ESMC."
Clarence Jones continues his frustrations by noting the omission for the new curriculum was "deliberate."
For example, "Evolution of Black Political and Intellectual Thought" is limited to three examples "racial accommodationism, Black nationalism, and revolutionary inter-communalism," with the implication that the intellectual and moral basis for radical non-violence advocated by Dr. King, his colleagues at Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the heroes of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee "is unworthy of inclusion in this intellectual history."
Clarence Jones continued "Worse, the ESMC implies that the struggle for integration and voting rights, against segregation and disenfranchisement, should be understood, and condemned, as “racial accomodationism.” It would be immoral to base the Black studies portion of the ESMC on such a blatant and reprehensible falsification of historical fact."
The new curriculum removed the historical teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including his calls for non-violence.
"Most offensive of all, the only external source provided to teachers in a reference guide, in the exhibit B, Sample Lesson 4: 'Black Lives Matter and Social Change' is an article that denigrates the struggle of Dr. King and the Black Freedom Movement of the 1950s and 1960s"
"Romanticizing the civil rights movement is a particular concern when it comes to what students have already learned. Prevailing narratives praise ‘respectable,’ seemingly passive, docile, nonviolent black leaders as heroes, while condemning louder, more militant tactics, such as those associated with the Black Panther Party of leadership style of Malcolm X."
Clarence Jones strongly condemned the curriculum writing, "This analysis promulgates defamatory falsehoods. There was nothing 'passive' or 'docile' about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or any of the leadership for the nonviolent movement for Black freedom and human rights in the United States." He added, "It is morally indecent and deeply offensive to learn that this distorted narrative is being held up by the State of California as a model for teachers of Black studies."
The ESMC omitted important historical facts about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolent Civil rights movement and glorified those who advocated for Black Nationalism and violence for students.
"I write in a plea for moral reasoning and decency, and for a respect for truth and accuracy in teaching the history of transformative social movements to our student."
The full letter can be read here.